Flagler County Fire Rescue’s longtime paramedic Caryn Prather says her late husband Grady Prather was at his happiest as a law enforcement officer when he was patrolling the county’s waters.
By the time Grady Prather retired in 2008, he’d served the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office for 33 years, a record for any deputy. He’d started as a 911 dispatcher in 1975, became a road deputy, then started the department’s marine patrol unit.
“Captain Prather’s love for the ocean and desire to protect our waterways motivated him to create the sheriff’s office’s marine unit,” Sheriff Rick Staly said Monday morning at a dedication of the revived marine unit and its base at the sheriff’s District 1 Office at 69 Malacompra Road in the Hammock. A few dozen people had gathered, for the unveiling of the station’s name as the Captain Grady Prather Jr. Marine Unit and Dive Team office. “For many years he was the only certified diver.” He served as the commander of the marine and dive unit and received several awards and commendations.
The marine unit was disbanded after Prather’s retirement. Staly decided to reinstate it after his reelection. The unit now consists of one assigned deputy–Jeff Turner–who’s “out on the water full time,” says Cmdr. Jeff Stuart. “When he’s not on the water he takes the ATV on the beaches,” patrolling there. The unit is supplemented on an as-needed basis by eight deputies who are members of the dive team. Their diving duties are ancillary to their road patrol duties. The unit is also supplemented by the volunteer Citizens’ Observer Patrol, or COP, which has its own boat among the three boats, the air boat and the pontoon boat that form the marine unit’s hardware. The pontoon boat is used as a platform for divers to stage their equipment and prepare for dives where they need to be.
The dedication of the station in Prather’s name, Caryn said, “is an honor for my husband. He would love this. He would absolutely love this.” She described him as “outspoken. He had a caring heart. If you were his friend, you were his friend. There were no questions asked.”
Among the crowd were elected officials from the county, Bunnell and Flagler Beach, and Jon Netts, the former Palm Coast mayor and continuing member of the Florida Indland Navigation District.